Popular singer, John Asiemo, aka Daddy Showkey has arguably put Ajegunle, a densely populated ghetto in Lagos State, on the Nigerian musical map. His brand of dance hall music – a mutation of ragga, root reggae and Afrobeat – convinced non-believers that music from the ghetto could appeal to different strata of the society. He was not just a poster boy for the ghetto but also created a new narrative about Ajegunle through his music.
With over two decades as a professional musician, Daddy Showkey, who once described himself as the ‘key to the show’, still remains one of the great musical talents to emerge from Nigeria. In this interview, he spoke to Sam Umukoro about his hiatus, his forthcoming album and why he decided to perform at the recent Afropolitan Vibes concert in Lagos.
Sam Umukoro Interview: A lot of your fans have been waiting to hear from Daddy Showkey. Having been away from music for a while, when should they expect the release of your next album?
Daddy Showkey: I had an accident that affected my spine in 2007 and I was away for three years. I could not walk in those three years and I only started learning how to walk exactly two years and three months ago. If people would only care about the music and not the person, I decided to stay away. If it was that I was arrested for drugs, it would be all over the papers, but since it was an accident that almost took my life, nobody showed any concern. So, I just decided to stay on my own, but some friends urged me to come back, and I came back during the election period. Shortly after the elections, some hired assassins came to my house when I wasn’t around and killed somebody in my house. Three months after that, I was shot at a filling station in Agidingbi. When people talk about music sometimes, it baffles me that they don’t care about my life. I am thankful to my friends in Ajegunle – they were the ones who stuck with me throughout that period, I went through a lot. I also have to thank friends like Baba Fryo, Cashman Davis, Bembe and so many of my other friends in my neighbourhood at Ajegunle. I’m currently in the studio working on something but I will not disclose it. I cannot leave the stage because the stage is my home.
Sam Umukoro: Talking about the stage, the last time some of us saw you was at the fuel subsidy protests two years ago. Why did you decide to come back to perform at Afropolitan Vibes?
Daddy Showkey: I actually performed in many shows in the latter part of 2013. I performed at DSTV’s 20th anniversary and many other events. I was deeply touched when I saw people’s responses at those shows. I did not realize that people still knew my vibes and still respected my stagecraft. I decided to perform at Afropolitan Vibes because Ade Bantu is a nice person; he is also a friend and brother. So, if you have somebody like that ask you, ‘Showkey please come to my stage’, you are happy to do so. In 2014 I am going to start with shows, I’ll start going to events, return to the stage; that is why I am performing at Afropolitan Vibes. I don’t want to say anything more about my plans, let people come and watch.
Sam Umukoro: What would you say is your biggest achievement as an artiste?
Daddy Showkey: It is making my neighbourhood and children from my neighbourhood (Ajegunle) proud, because when we were growing up many people were ashamed to identify with where they came from. I was born and brought up in Ajegunle, although I’m from Delta State and I’m Isoko by birth. I also had some challenging experiences when I was growing up. So, I decided that if God gave me the opportunity, I was going to stand up and promote Ajegunle, and make Ajegunle children, as well as other children born in different ghettos, proud of themselves. To me, this is my greatest achievement.
Sam Umukoro: During those difficult moments, did you ever consider quitting music? Did you feel betrayed by your fans and the industry?
Daddy Showkey: Yes. I felt betrayed by people; because some people think most of us (musicians) are drug dealers. Some people also do not believe that I made what I have today through music; they think I may also be involved in some other businesses. I felt very bad when I had that accident. Everywhere I go now, people want to see me but I was away for three years, but nobody asked where I was and what was happening with me. But if I had been arrested for drugs or any other bad thing, people would have said, ‘Oh, we said it before, he is into hard drugs business, that’s why he has all he has.’ I thank God that He has helped me throughout my musical career and I did not have to beg from anybody. I’m also grateful to some people that assisted me during the process of my surgery.
Sam Umukoro: Did you write songs during the period you were recovering?
Daddy Showkey: Music is my mood and in my spirit. I don’t have any notebook where I write music. Music is what I dream, what I feel and the atmosphere that encourages me to compose. When I was seriously down, there was no way I could think, my only preoccupation was how I was going to survive and how I was going to cope with what I was going through then.
Sam Umukoro: Some time ago, a picture of you and Wizkid in the studio was circulated in the media. Should your fans be expecting a collabo soon?
Daddy Showkey: For now I cannot say yes or no, I cannot say if I’m doing anything with anybody (smiles).
Sam Umukoro: You pioneered a lot of good things in music, especially coming from Ajegunle. What is your take on the current generation of young musicians?
Daddy Showkey: I thank those musicians that pioneered what today’s generation is benefiting from, although the music has taken a different angle in this generation, especially with the advances in technology. You can sit in your house, pick up your laptop, connect it to the internet and promote your music. I travelled out of the country and was at a club where they were playing our music; I shed tears because TV and radio stations during our time could decide not to play one’s music because they had a sort of monopoly then. But today the internet is there. There are many websites promoting music, there are 24-hour TV stations with global reach. As a result, people can watch me perform in Nigeria, as well as in Ghana, Gambia, Egypt and all over the world. Today, the young ones benefit from all that.
Sam Umukoro: Has any of your kids taken after your footsteps?
Daddy Showkey: I’ve not noticed it but if anyone of them wants to become a musician, he is free to do so. But the only thing I will tell him or her is that education is key. Education is the greatest thing you can give to a child. After education, you can do anything you want to do.
Sam Umukoro: You said in an interview many years ago that music saved you from boxing, how true is that?
Daddy Showkey: No, music did not save me from boxing; boxing is my passion, while music is my talent. Boxing is my talent too and I will tell you one truth today – music saved me from crime, music made me become something. Boxing is my dream; I dreamt of becoming a world champion but instead music made me a world musician.
Sam Umukoro: You also said music saved you from a life of crime, how do you mean?
Daddy Showkey: If you grew up in Ajegunle, you’ll see a lot of things. Back then, when I didn’t have anything to do, I would go around entertaining people in my spare time. I would entertain my friends and family when other people were getting involved in crime; I’d be at one place either cracking jokes, singing or doing acrobatics. So, all these activities took me away from crime.
Sam Umukoro: What would you want to be remembered for?
Daddy Showkey: As a human being I want to leave a legacy where my life and my history would give other children with similar background like mine hope, because today in our country we don’t have good role models.
I want to leave a good legacy, where people can read about me and say, this man grew up in the slums and became something good. I want it to be said of me that I gave children hope, that I gave people hope and made them believe in themselves, which is the most important thing in life. It is the legacy you live behind that matters; not the number of houses you build.